Killer Skill: Briefing Senior Leaders

Now that I have created a post about read ahead material, the next "killer skill" is the actual briefing itself.

Bill Casey (, a faculty member of the Navy's Executive Learning Center (at Navy Post-Graduate School, where the Navy Corporate Business Course is taught), recently distributed a set of notes he compiled from a session with senior leaders about how they like to be briefed. You’ll find it interesting and possibly quite useful, but I recommend a more condensed and organized version of the material that I had put into point paper form (both files are available in the "Files Available for Download" section of this site). If you are having to endure painful briefings yourself (I would be surprised if this were not the case), you might pass the information along to the briefers, circling the advice that you particularly would like to see followed.

The part of these notes that may be somewhat counterintuitive for many briefers is keeping things simple. Most people realize that flag officers, especially two stars and beyond have lots of experience and intelligence. What they do not realize is that you are not helping the flag officer cram for a detailed test on your topic. He gets briefed on lots of topics and has influence on broad swaths of Navy operations, personnel, and budgets. The briefer is not trying to make the flag officer an expert, you just want him to gain a grasp of the fundamentals so he can make good decisions (either right now or some time in the future) and that is why he generally only needs to keep the elevator speech version in his head.

Dr. Casey tells me that people have been using his quick little compendium this way: they look it over and it reminds them of common sense ideas they or their team mates have been violating — often in respect to some particular leader. Or, it reminds them of pet peeves they have had with regard to how they are getting briefed. Thus, the “circle the advice” becomes a Chinese menu.

Dr. Casey has other useful articles, point papers, book chapters, and even a video of himself (very photogenic), go to and click on "Publications."